WATCH: Rabbi Avi Schnall Testifies at State Budget Hearing About Nonpublic School Aid Increases

With the Fiscal Year 2024 budget season now underway in New Jersey, both houses of the state legislature have begun holding a series of public hearings, where members of the public can come and testify.

On Tuesday, Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey director, Rabbi Avi Schnall, traveled to Mahwah, where the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee held its first public hearing at Ramapo College of New Jersey, to ask the members of the committee to increase the amount of funds allocated for nonpublic school auxiliary services.

During his testimony, Rabbi Schnall noted that while Governor Murphy’s proposed budget projects an expected increase of 9,000 students who will be eligible for such aid in 2024, the amount allocated per pupil remains stagnant at last year’s levels, without reflecting the increased number of students.

Rabbi Schnall also pointed out that since 1998, when the state legislature determined an allocation of $995 per student was necessary to ensure all eligible students receive the proper remedial education, the total amount has only increased by $45, a number well below the recommended amount especially when considering wage and administrative increases, as well as inflation.

Fewer funds available for children means less money available to hire teachers, which results in larger class sizes and/or less time per student.

“The children eligible for these services are the most vulnerable amongst our students,” Rabbi Schnall noted. “These children deserve, as the statute says, the ‘fullest possible opportunity to develop their intellectual capacities,’“ he told the committee.

“We therefore implore the members of this committee to increase the per-pupil amount from $1,040 to $1,300,” he added. Such an increase would add about $13 million to nonpublic schools’ budgets for aid to students who need it, including about $6 million that would flow to the yeshiva system.

While the governor proposes the budget, it is ultimately the lawmakers who are responsible for drafting and approving the annual appropriations act, sending it to him for his signature or veto prior to the July 1st deadline.

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